• synonyms


[at-awl, -ol, -ohl, uh-tawl, uh-tol, uh-tohl]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
  1. a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon.

Origin of atoll

1615–25; earlier atollon < French: a word used in early descriptions of the Maldive Island atolls; said to be Divehi (Indo-Aryan language of the Maldives) atoḷu
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for atoll

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Once more he raised the glass to his eye and gazed toward the inlet of the atoll.

    Adrift on the Pacific

    Edward S. Ellis

  • Sanders knew of it, and said they passed it still closer on their way to the atoll.

    Adrift on the Pacific

    Edward S. Ellis

  • And search they did, atoll after atoll, until at the end of an hour they were rewarded.

    David and the Phoenix

    Edward Ormondroyd

  • For a trifling sum I could have chartered a schooner and sought the atoll.

    The Pagan Madonna

    Harold MacGrath

  • The atoll is known, but uncharted, because it is far outside the routes.

    The Pagan Madonna

    Harold MacGrath

British Dictionary definitions for atoll


  1. a circular coral reef or string of coral islands surrounding a lagoon

Word Origin

C17: from atollon, native name in the Maldive Islands
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for atoll


1620s, atollon, from Malayam atolu "reef," probably from adal "closing, uniting." Popularized in present form by Darwin's writings.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

atoll in Science


[ătôl′, ātôl′]
  1. A coral island or series of coral islands forming a ring that nearly or entirely encloses a shallow lagoon. Atolls are surrounded by deep ocean water and range in diameter from about 1 km (0.62 mi) to over 100 km (62 mi). They are especially common in the western and central Pacific Ocean and are believed to form along the fringes of underwater volcanoes. Compare barrier reef fringing reef.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

atoll in Culture


[(a-tawl, a-tol, ay-tawl, ay-tol)]

A coral island that surrounds a lagoon. (See coral reef.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.